I still vividly remember my first festival experience as an innocent teenager back in 2004. It was the 'Hurricane Festival' in Germany, and to this day, I believe my best friend and I were probably the youngest attendees there (Thank you, mum and dad, for letting me go). We both had the time of our lives and witnessed David Bowie perform live on stage—apparently at his last-ever concert.
However, amidst all the excitement and joy I felt during those days, one thing remains etched in my memory: the overwhelming amount of trash we all left behind.
My choice of music events has evolved over the years, but my love for festivals remains unchanged. In this article, I delve into simple ways we can all contribute to a more eco-friendly outdoor music experience, regardless of whether it's a grand commercial event or a cozy local festival in an intimate setting. By implementing these easy hacks, we not only help protect the environment but also have the potential to save some money along the way.
1. Rent your gear & outfits
Reduce plastic waste by borrowing festival gear
Did you know that over 250,000 festival tents are abandoned each year in the UK alone? That's more than 900,000 kg of non-recyclable waste. With their 'No tent left behind' initiative, sports goods retailer Decathlon even offers a full refund gift card for returning their tent after the festival. If you don't own camping gear, ask your friends or consider renting one. Berlin-based Utopia Camping offers a solution by renting out camping equipment that has been rescued and repurposed from previous festivals.
Rent your festival attire
Bold festival outfits are undoubtedly part of the experience, but buying new pieces for each event can quickly accumulate a closet full of clothes that rarely see the light of day. Consider clothes swapping with friends or renting your festival attire from platforms like Kleiderei. This not only promotes the circular economy but is also kind to your wallet.
2. Choose green transportation
Reduce your carbon footprint: leave your car at home
Visitor transportation is responsible for up to 80% of the total CO2 emissions a festival generates. To address this issue, organisers have increased parking fees to encourage the use of public transportation. Many now offer bus shuttles or even festival trains. By carpooling with friends or utilising shared transport for your gear, you will pay less, reduce your carbon footprint, and help minimise traffic congestion. And if you feel adventurous enough, you may even consider cycling to the event.
3. Respect Nature's Fragile Ecosystem
Use the toilet, not nature
While it may seem convenient to relieve yourself in the bushes, urinating in nature can cause huge damage. During Glastonbury 2014, a damaged sewage tank leaked waste water and ammonia into a nearby river, resulting in the deaths of many fish. A research study conducted during 2019's festival revealed alarming levels of illicit drugs in the river. Concentration was up to 104 times higher than before the festival, posing a threat to the existence of rare eel populations.
Preserve water ecosystems: shower responsibly
After dancing in the sun, it's tempting to cool off in a nearby lake. However, using soap, shampoo, sunscreen, or chemical insect repellent in natural water reserves can harm the delicate aquatic ecosystem. By showering beforehand and using more eco-friendly "picaridin"-based insect repellents, you can take a dip without causing harm to the environment.
Store cigarette butts in a portable ashtray
Even small cigarette butts have a big environmental impact and are a fire hazard. They are made of cellulose acetate, a type of plastic that takes years to break down. One filter can contaminate up to 8 L of water. Using a portable ashtray prevents pollution and protects the environment from toxic chemicals like nicotine and heavy metals.
4. Minimise noise pollution
Consider wildlife: avoid playing loud music on campsite
Blasting out loud music on the campsite, particularly if it is located in a natural reserve, can have a negative impact on wildlife. It can disrupt their feeding habits and sleep patterns and even cause them to abandon their nesting sites. So instead, enjoy the great sound quality on the festival site and a peaceful sleep on the camping grounds.
5. Reduce food waste
Pack non-perishable snacks for the campground
Plant-based snacks can withstand the summer heat. Fresh fruits like watermelon, grapes, and berries provide hydration and essential vitamins after a long night of dancing. Wraps filled with hummus, avocado, fresh veggies and tofu offer a hearty meal that still tastes good on a Sunday. Nut bars and dried fruits are convenient on-the-go snacks. Mix water with oat milk powder for your morning coffee to create a creamy cappuccino.
Donate unopened food
Some festivals provide designated drop-off points where you can donate unopened and non-perishable food to local food banks. This helps reduce waste and creates a positive impact within the community.
6. Support local and plant-based food stalls
Buying from vendors offering plant-based, locally sourced food options can help reduce the festival's carbon footprint. Aditionally, an increased demand for organic, vegan produce can influence festival organisers to provide more opportunities for these businesses on the grounds in the future.
7. Create a waste-free Campsite
Bring your own reusable tableware and bottle
Single-use plastic bottles and disposable plates are still major culprits of festival waste. Bringing your own bottle and using the water refill stations is an easy step that can have a huge impact. For the campground, pack lightweight, reusable cutlery and plates made of stainless steel, bamboo, or enamel.
Encourage on-site recycling efforts
Inspire others and separate recyclable items, compostable materials, and general waste. Take a moment to study the festival's recycling initiatives. If you're unsure whether an item is recyclable, it's better to dispose of it in the regular trash bin. Contamination can undermine recycling efforts and result in all of the trash ending up in landfills.
8. Make use of green energy
Leave diesel generators at home
Diesel generators not only generate noise pollution but also release harmful fumes. In fact, studies have shown that the air quality at festivals can be worse than in busy inner-city areas. However, there is a promising solution on the horizon. Fuel cell and hydrogen (FCH) technologies offer a clean and renewable energy alternative with zero CO2 emissions and minimal noise. The German Green Music Initiative is involved in the Everywh2ere Hydrogen project, which developed cell generators for testing at festivals across Europe.
Embrace solar power for a green campsite
Avoid single-use batteries and instead make use of solar-powered chargers to keep your phone and technical equipment juiced up. Solar-powered string lights or these lanterns from Sonnenglas harness the sustainable energy the sun provides. It's a win-win for you and the planet and adds a magical vibe to your campsite.
9. Choose plastic-free toiletries
Swap disposable wet wipes for solid soaps
Disposable wet wipes are convenient but contain plastic and can cause toilet clogs. Instead, choose compact and travel-friendly solid soaps. For DIY wipes, cut up an old T-shirt and soak fabric squares in a solution of boiling water, aloe vera, witch hazel, Castille soap, and essential oils. Too much effort? Then 'biodegradable' wet wipes from cellulose may be an alternative. Always dispose of these wipes correctly and never flush them down the toilet (they require specific conditions to break down, which are not typically found in sewers.)
Sparkle sustainably with eco-friendly glitter and confetti
Confetti and glitter usually contain microplastics, which have harmful effects on ecosystems. Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives available! Compostable confetti made from natural materials and glitter that is both biodegradable and certified microplastic-free, like the ones offered by Bioglitter™, provide a sustainable way to add sparkle to your festival experience. One of our personal favorites is the Seed confetti from Saatgutkonfetti, which contains the seeds of over 23 native wild plant species. So instead of creating waste, you may leave a small bee habitat instead.
10. Leave no trace on the campsite
Take your tent home
When the festival comes to an end, leave your campsite clean and trace-free. It should be a no-brainer, but no matter how tired you may feel after the long weekend, please take your tent with you. A single tent, on average, contains non-recyclable plastic equivalent to 8,750 straws or 250 pint-sized cups.
Remove all tent pegs
Camping grounds are often located on farmland, meadows, or fields. Remember to remove all tent pegs from the ground.They are often overlooked but can pose a hazard to animals, including grazing cattle and wildlife.
By following these easy, eco-friendly festival practices, you can have an unforgettable time dancing the night away while minimising your environmental impact.
You have other suggestions?
Share your hacks for greener festivals in the comments below, and let's create some positive change together.